There are several different kinds of allergy, but perhaps the most common is food allergy. As its name suggests, this type of allergy is triggered when a reaction occurs after contact with a particular food to which you are sensitized. ‘Sensitized’ means that you have taken this food before. As the food enters the body, your immune system – your body’s natural defense – sees the food substance as harmful foreign substance and mounts an attack against the protein. It produces a specific type of antibodies called IgE to “fight off” the proteins. This action of your own body’s immune system is what triggers an allergic response.
The response can range from mild or moderate to severe, including symptoms like swelling of the face and tongue, rash called “hives” (like nettle rash), breathing difficulties, runny nose and eyes, swelling of the throat, abdominal pain and bowel disturbances, nausea and vomiting and could to life threatening collapse (anaphylaxis).
Below are some practical tips to help you manage food allergy:
1. Plan ahead. If you can, write a list of foods that you can tolerate and try to get some recipes which incorporate these. You may also consult your dietician and discuss or ask for any advice/help about special dietary alternatives or recipes that won’t trigger your allergy. Also, try your local libraries for recipes or contact allergy specialists for more information on sensitivities or recipes.
2. If you are eating out, telephone the host or chef in advance and explain your needs. See if they will allow you to supply your own food. If not, perhaps they can adapt the menu for you. Always make it a point to discuss everything beforehand so you won’t get tempted to eat anything you shouldn’t.
3. Take extra supplies whenever you go out. You might take longer than you originally planned so carrying a spare packed lunch or goodies with you can be a big help not only to stave off your hunger but also to keep you away from restaurants selling foods that may trigger your food allergy.
4. It helps if you keep a food and symptom diary so when you have a reaction, you can pinpoint what triggered your symptoms. This also helps when you make your list of tolerable foods.
5. Make everyone aware if you have a life-threatening allergy. That way, you don’t have to rely on yourself whenever you find yourself in a situation where you extremely tempted to eat foods you’re allergic to. Also, in case you unknowingly ingest foods that trigger your allergy, there would be someone there to help you.
6. Freeze and bake so you have stocks of allowed foods and don’t have to bake every few days. This will make a wider selection of choice, too.
7. If you’re going abroad, obtain some Allergy translation cards so you are able to show them in different countries. Also, one of the first things you ought to do in a foreign place is to find out where the nearest hospital or doctor is in case of an emergency.